Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and it is unclear whether he’ll be available for the start of the Western Conference finals next week, a person with knowledge of the situation said Wednesday.
The Suns are not certain exactly how long Paul will have to be away from the team, the person said, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither the player nor the team have publicly released anything about the situation.
Paul has been vaccinated against COVID-19, said another person, also speaking on condition of anonymity because of privacy concerns. And that may mean that Paul, if he has tested positive, could be cleared to return more quickly than those who tested positive earlier this season before vaccines were readily available.
The Athletic first reported that Paul was entering the protocols.
The earliest the West finals would begin is Sunday. It depends on how long the other West semifinal series between Utah and the Los Angeles Clippers lasts; if the Jazz-Clippers matchup ends Friday, then Game 1 between the winner of that series and the Suns will be Sunday afternoon.
Otherwise, the likely start date for Game 1 of the West series is Tuesday.
The protocols are the league’s playbook for handling all matters related to the coronavirus this season. There have been examples of players missing multiple weeks following positive COVID-19 tests; there have also been examples of players missing very short amounts of time for matters such as contact tracing investigations.
In March, the league also relaxed some of the protocols that were put into place last fall, doing so in response to players and coaches choosing to receive the vaccine that protects against the coronavirus.
But the league also cautioned at that time that “if an individual has symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the previous protocols apply” — which would still mean that anyone with those symptoms “may be subject to quarantine” regardless of their vaccination status.
Paul scored 37 points in Game 4 of the West semifinals against Denver, helping Phoenix finish off a four-game sweep. He has only played in the West finals once in his career, doing so in 2018 with Houston against Golden State. The Rockets held a 3-2 lead in that series when Paul injured a hamstring and had to miss Games 6 and 7; Houston lost both and the Warriors went on to win the NBA title.
He is averaging 15.7 points and 8.7 assists per game in these playoffs, shooting 51% from the field, 44% from 3-point range and 91% from the foul line.